A ‘compo culture’ and business costs

Sir, – While Mark Paul expressed home truths about the duration of the "compo culture" row, his underlying tone suggested that there is an element of phoney war about the debate ("Same old same old in insurance and personal injury debate", Caveat, June 7th).

The IMF reported in 2016 that the burden of non-life insurance cost in Ireland was 2.4 times greater than the EU average in GDP terms (ie three times bigger in national income terms). The Irish pay through the nose. Full stop.

ISME has scrupulously avoided the Punch-and-Judy match between lawyers and insurers in the current debacle. Despite their feigned antipathy towards each other, theirs is a happy symbiosis. Without the lawyers, insurers could not suck such rent from us. And without the insurers, lawyers would have no one to foot the bill. Most of the €1.7 billion black hole identified by Dorothea Dowling between premiums and payouts is extracted between them from their Irish hosts.

The “old hat” Mark Paul refers to predates even his quoting of Síle de Valera complaining about a “compensation culture” in 1994.


The Barrington Commission noted in 1983 that accident prevention and compensation made “uneasy bedfellows” and said our tort system, still in use today, was expensive to administer.

Barrington went on to say the tort system led to malingering, compensation neurosis and “just plain fiddling”, while the delays in settling cases provided an opportunity for employers and workers to “milk the system”.

The Law Reform Commission studied personal injuries settlement systems in 1996. Much of its analysis could have been cut-and-pasted into the reports of the Cost of Insurance Working Group in 2017 and 2018. Which is why ISME objects so strongly to referring a cap on damages to the Law Reform Commission now.

Should we just blithely ignore facts and see what happens?

We have mounds of data showing us the problem is real and severely impacting businesses, charities, sports, civic groups and festivals. This is no “febrile narrative”. What we lack is meaningful, urgent action from our Government to fix it. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,


Kildare Street,

Dublin 2.